There comes a point after a long night of partying when all you want to do is go home. At least, that’s the feeling I get every single time I’m out dancing for 10 hours and dirty as hell from hanging out in the forest.
Two weeks ago we went to Forest Frequencies, the psytrance festival in Chahtoul, a mountainous area north of Beirut. It’s a four day psychedelic trance festival in an old camping ground. People do a lot of crazy things. They even bring their children.
It’s a hardcore way to party and I’ve spent days at a festival before but I just can’t make myself do it anymore. These days the party plan is this: Arrive early evening one day, party till the morning, and leave around noon the next day.
Phases one and two unravel without a hitch. But after the sun rises and all the sleepyheads wake up or the party heads start to wind down, we begin phase three: Spreading the seeds of looking for a ride home. Most festival goers are from Beirut and in Lebanon it’s easy to just yell out for a ride and get one.
By 10 in the morning we had three potential rides home, but as experts we knew they weren’t secure shoe-ins. Our new friends and old friends tell us they’re leaving any minute now and I get excited at the prospect of descending down the mountain. But in my giddiness I neglect to see the facts that Matias clearly points out: “Hey, did you notice XX (who is supposed to be leaving in the next 15 minutes) hasn’t even broken down his tent yet or started packing anything?” In an instant the wool is pulled over my eyes and I know what we’re dealing with. It’s time to take our departure into our own hands.
Fortunately, I happen to be partnered up with the #1 Hitchhiking Expert of the Globe which means if we want to go somewhere, nothing will hold us back.
We left with bags on our backs waving goodbye to friends. It was a glorious sunny day with crisp mountain air kissing our faces and I felt euphoric and free! We hiked for ten minutes, got picked up and dropped off, hiked more and were picked up again. Unknowingly, we climbed into another crazy story.
Hashish in the morning
Our new friend was a guy in his late twenties wearing what looked like casual army clothes and Oakley sunglasses. He was quiet and nice and asked us what we were up to. Prompted by our usual questions to locals, he reflected on the situation in Lebanon saying “Lebanon is so beautiful, but it’s like war all over now.” It was poignant and to the point and he had a mysterious vibe about him. He was late on his way to work and Matias probed him on why he was working on a Sunday, of all days, why on a Sunday!? Matias needed to know.
The guy pulled out a joint of hash and sighed, asking us if it were OK if he smoked it. We gave him the all-clear; it was his car and he was giving us a ride, the dude can smoke his joint if he wants to. He lit it up and said, “I never used to smoke hashish in the morning, but I do now…”
“I was working in Pakistan for four years at a security company.” He told us. I clenched my fingers around my seat belt.
“One day…one day I was driving my car and I accidentally hit a Pakistani woman and killed her.” He said. At that moment I saw the despair and darkness surround him. Tired and woozy and totally emotional, I felt so bad for him I almost blurted out “It’s OK if you accidentally killed someone!” until I realized how ludicrous that statement was. I opted for silence instead. The story continued.
“They sent me to jail and sentenced me to 18 years for murder. It was worse than hell, it was the most horrible thing I could ever imagine.” In jail he said the inmates were not humans, but monsters, and he smoked everything he could get his hands on to somehow feel less of the horror. I remained silent in the back and he still continued, calmly, winding down the road and puffing softly on his joint.
“I had to get out of there so I bribed them for my escape. I paid them my entire life savings for a ride from the jail to the airport. That was it. That’s what I paid all the money I’ve ever had for.”
When he said entire life savings I imagined something resembling a few thousand dollars — a large amount of money but nothing devastating, I guess. “Now I have no money so I started my own company when I got back to Lebanon.” He said.
“How much did you have to pay them to get to the airport?” I mustered up the courage to ask.
“$200,000” he said and I nearly shit my pants. “Two hundred thousand dollars!?” We screamed in unison. “Yes I paid them two hundred thousand dollars and now I’m working every day of the week for $1000 a month.” He chuckled disgustedly. Then he smiled, looked at us and said “And that is why I smoke hashish in the morning.”
As he finished his story we approached the base of the mountain and asked him where he was going to let us off. “I’m going to drop you at a spot where you just have to stand and a bus will pick you up and take you to Beirut.”
As opposed to just letting us off where we could walk to the other side of the highway, he drove out of his way and stopped where we would need nothing more than a few minutes to wait.
We stood there realizing that we didn’t just hitchhike from a rave with another extremely generous, friendly, and sociable Lebanese person. We happened to get a lift from the guy who literally paid $200,000 for a ride to an airport and ultimately his freedom. Thank you for that, Mr.
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